Closing the gates after the horses are already gone?

US and Belize sign MOU to end illegal antiquities trade.

it's not retroactive.

The full name of the agreement is “A Memorandum of Understanding Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Belize Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Categories of Archaeological Material Representing the Cultural Heritage of Belize from the Pre-Ceramic (9000 B.C.), Pre-Classic, Classic, and Post-Classic Periods of the Pre-Columbian Era Through the Early and Late Colonial Periods”.

US Will Prosecute Stolen Bze Artifacts

We're all familiar with the Jade Head, or the Buena Vista Vase...these are well known treasures of antiquity. But what about all the Mayan treasures that have been looted by temple raiders or the state sanctioned plunder that happened in the colonial era? Those are gone forever - there's no inventory of all the treasured antiquities lying undiscovered at sites across Belize and no way of knowing what all was looted.

And to this day, with so many archeological sites still unofficially excavated, looters and traders often make off with large quantities of priceless artifacts and sell them on the black market.

To try to combat this problem, the United States has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Belize which provides US Government Organizations with the authority to bring legal action against anyone caught with artifacts from Belize.

There was a small ceremony today at the House of Culture to note the importance of this MOU, and 7News attended.

Here's what the officials told the media about what it means for Belize:

Dr. Jaime Awe - Director, Institute of Archaeology
"It's a great accomplishment for the country of Belize. Why, great, that's because the US, by signing this agreement, is declaring that they will join with us, collaborate with us to do everything in their effort to stop the importation of Belize's antiquities into the United States."

H. E. Vinai Thumalapally - US Ambassador to Belize
"The MOU demonstrates that the United States is committed to combating the looting and trafficking of cultural property of Belize, just as it is all around the world. As they say, it's the market that you have to address. If you can address the market, protect it , and keep people from buying stolen goods, that's how you make progress towards preventing from stealing in the first place."

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. - Minister of Tourism and Culture
"It has never been easy to stem the illegal exportation of archeological and ethnographic materials to international market. Consequently, and particularly because of the illicit trade in antiquities, the looting and destruction of many archaeological sites continue unabated throughout the country. In an effort to addressing this challenging problem, and realizing that the United States was one of the major destinations of Belizean antiquities, we began almost 3 years ago to negotiate a bilateral agreement with the Department of State of the US Government. It was clear to us that US import restrictions would not only help to reduce the economic incentive for the importation of Belizean artifacts, but would also serve to promote the conservation and protection of sites by complimenting and strengthening the effectiveness of existing Belizean laws."

Anyone caught with artifacts from Belize will be liable to criminal charges, and the items will be repatriated back to Belize.

Channel 7